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DeBrincat aims for more in second season with Blackhawks

Forward trying to become complete player after scoring 28 goals as rookie

by Tracey Myers Tramyers_NHL / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Alex DeBrincat had a strong rookie season with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The 20-year-old forward made the team out of training camp and looked comfortable no matter where he was in the lineup. The offensive prowess he had with Erie of the Ontario Hockey League, where he scored 167 goals over three seasons, was evident. He had 52 points (28 goals, 24 assists) in 82 games with the Blackhawks last season, including three hat tricks.

All that initial success aside, there are still several parts of DeBrincat's game that he'd like to improve.


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"I think I can be a little bit better below the net and also in my own zone," DeBrincat said. "Back in the offensive zone, I could be more shifty and try to create more offensive chances like that. That's kind of what I've been working on. I think I can do a lot of things better. I'm kind of trying to round out my game."

DeBrincat enjoyed a bit of a break this summer but he's back at work, honing his skills in the inaugural season of the Chicago Pro Hockey League. For DeBrincat, getting game action during the offseason has its benefits.

"You can practice all you want, but a game is way different," DeBrincat said. "This gives you a taste of that and it's fun. You get into the swing of the game. You love playing hockey and this reminds you of that."

DeBrincat played the full schedule his rookie season, but considering how busy he was previously, it wasn't daunting; he played 63 regular-season and 22 playoff games in 2016-17 with Erie, which lost to Windsor in the Memorial Cup Final. But he did have to adjust to the faster, bigger, stronger NHL last season, and he learned how to physically prepare for the grind.

"I mean, I think just throughout the year you learn a lot of new things," he said. "A lot of it's taking care of your body early in the season. It's pretty tough, pretty taxing. You learn how to be a pro. And just taking care of the body, that's probably the biggest thing."

Video: WPG@CHI: DeBrincat tees up and buries heavy slapper

DeBrincat was part of Team USA's bronze-medal performance at the World Championship in May. In that tournament, DeBrincat often played with and developed chemistry with Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane.

Could they be together this season for the Blackhawks? Coach Joel Quenneville tinkered with putting Kane and DeBrincat together with center Nick Schmaltz last season, but ultimately the three played very few minutes together. But considering how well DeBrincat adapted to the NHL and the chemistry that Kane and Schmaltz already had, it could make for a good combination.

"With Kane, playing together there was pretty good for me," DeBrincat said. "He can get you the puck, so it was a lot of fun. He generated a lot of chances for me."

As DeBrincat looks to improve his individual game, the Blackhawks will be trying to do the same as a team; they were 33-39-10 (76 points) and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007-08. They signed three players on July 1: goaltender Cam Ward and forward Chris Kunitz each signed for one season, and defenseman Brandon Manning signed a two-year deal. There are still concerns on defense, but the Blackhawks have a good mix of veterans and youth at forward, including DeBrincat. 

DeBrincat's jump from the OHL to the NHL was rather smooth, but he has a few things he'd like to improve this season. 

"Last summer, I was going from camp to camp," DeBrincat said. "It's good to sit in one place, train and get on the ice. I've been here (in Chicago), so it's been really good for me and having the ice here is pretty awesome. I'm excited to get the second season started. It can't come soon enough."

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